As someone who has recently set up her own business, and is trying to juggle doing so with two small children, I am always fascinated by parents who have managed to go that bit further and do something a bit special. Whether it’s becoming super-successful with a business venture/career, managing a child/children with special needs, or thinking outside the box when it comes to parenting/lifestyle choices- I always want to hear their secrets!
In the first of an occasional series I have a chat with Claire Chapman-Duffy, one half of fab foodie business ‘The Dip Society’. I first met Claire on my Broadcast Journalism course at Leeds University, where her talent for persuading people to try nibbly things with their wine started early- she was the person who actually made me like olives when we went out for dinner one night, and I am obviously forever grateful to her for this life-changing event! ;-)
A Mum of two boys now (Toby, 2.5 and Alastair, 5 months), Claire set up The Dip Society from her farmhouse kitchen in Lincolnshire, alongside her business partner, Helen Boyle. Their delicious dips (such a ‘Sweetbeet’ and ‘Arti-Thyme’), are now stocked by Ocado, Booths, Selfridges and Whole Foods, among others- not too shabby!
I picked Claire’s brain about combining motherhood with running a business, and making that leap into the unknown…
1. How did your idea for The Dip Society come about? I met my business partner Helen at a wedding and we hit it off instantly, and then I invited her over for dinner with some friends. She started talking about food to my husband, he swapped seats with her and said “you need to speak to my wife”. She mentioned her idea for a dip company. I went to bed that night thinking, “that’s a great idea…”. I called her the next day and said, “I want to do it. If you don’t want to do it with me – I’m going to do it anyway!”. I think she was a bit surprised, but she came over and we agreed to start researching the market and putting together our business plan.
We had only met each other three times when we decided to set up ‘The Dip Society’, which may seem a bit quick, but that pretty much sums up what we are like and how we approach things- once we’ve made our mind up, we just go for it.
2. What’s the hardest thing about juggling a family with your own business? There’s not one specific thing, but there are definitely days when everything seems to kick off at the same time and it can be overwhelming. So probably the unpredictability of having such a young company and such a young family, you really do need to be prepared for anything. There are weeks when everything works brilliantly, and there are most definitely weeks when I just feel like I’m walking in quick sand.
3. Business highs? Meeting people who love our dips. Seeing our dips on the shelf for the first time. Being listed at Ocado, Selfridges, Wholefoods, Harvey Nichols. I love ‘The Dip Society’, so every day is a high, although some more than others. In general I feel very lucky to enjoy my work so much, and feel that we are really growing and getting where we want to be.
4. Any low points? Difficult points for sure, especially starting a new food brand in a supermarket dominated sector. Its a very hard market, at times you get out of puff – but it doesn’t last very long. The challenge is what make it so exciting.
5. What tips would you give to people looking to start their own business? Make sure you have support outside of the business, friends and family especially the people you live with really need to be supportive and on board. It (and you!)can be quite anti-social and hard work at times, life is so much easier when they are happy to support you. Whether it’s looking over spread sheets late at night, or getting up early on a weekend to help you get things organised. I also love the partnership I have with Helen, we work very well together and I love bouncing ideas around with her. I think if you’re looking to start a business with someone make sure its the right person by trusting your instinct, and if you’ve got any doubts, just don’t bother.
6. Any advice when it comes to pitching to potential clients/stockists? Research the client, know how they work. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know something, and don’t agree to something you can’t deliver. Also just be honest and straightforward. Be yourself. It’s amazing how others relax when they realise you’re at ease, and it can really set the mood for a good meeting.
7. Describe a typical day for you (if there is one!) I have to be quite structured and strict with how I work because of the children. I tend to work from 9.30 til 3 then again from 8 til 11. No day is the same in terms of content, but my hours are quite set around the nursery drop off and pick up and bed and bath routine. Quite often Sunday evenings are spent preparing for the week ahead. The only time you’re not really ‘on’ is when I am away on holiday, or have an event outside of work, otherwise my mind always wanders back to dips. The kids are a great leveller and really make me focus on what’s important. They don’t really care about anything other than themselves and that always puts work into perspective.
8. What do you think the secret of your success is? I’m not successful as yet, I’m still getting there, where ever ‘there’ is, there’s lots more to learn, see and do. I think ‘The Dip Society’ is a great brand that’s fresh and fun, and really offers the customer a different product which is massively healthier. I feel happy in life and work, so if that’s what success is then I think the secret is to keep it simple. I think a lot of time is wasted with people wishing they could do things and not realising they really can do things. It’s definitely a big gear shift to make in your head, but once you decide to do something, just do it.
9. What’s next for The Dip Society? We have lots of products lined up, and we are also expanding our team which is really exciting. The people who work with us are great, they’ve really been amazing in their roles and it would be great to get more people on board and really get ‘The Dip Society’ out there.
Find out more about ‘The Dip Society’ www.thedipsociety.co.uk
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